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Baker v. Carr, legislative reapportionment, judicial supervision, democratic politics, democratic theory


Baker v. Carr is one of the Supreme Court's most important opinions, not least because its advent signaled the constitutionalization of democracy. Unfortunately, as is typical of the Court's numerous forays into democratic politics, the decision is not accompanied by an apparent vision of the relationship among democratic practice, constitutional law, and democratic theory. In this Article, Professor Charles revisits Baker and provides several democratic principles that he argues justifies the Court's decision to engage the democratic process. He examines the decision from the perspective of one of its chief contemporary critics, Justice Frankfurter. He sketches an approach, described as constitutional pluralism, for thinking about Baker and other cases involving judicial supervision of democratic politics. Using constitutional pluralism as an interpretive tool, he argues that the aim of judicial involvement in democratic politics ought to be to vindicate specific democratic principles. To the extent that a challenged democratic practice serves multiple and legitimate democratic ends, the federal courts should respect the judgment of democratic actors.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Legislative bodies, Baker v. Carr, Judges--Discipline, Democracy